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THE TIMEPIECE - ANTHONY SAMUELS


Karl studied the address on the business card, 2775 Cardinal Street. He kept looking for the establishment his wife had told him about. There, next to a pastry store sat the picturesque Bavarian style shop complete with white plaster walls and dark brown wooden crossbeams. A sign that read “Watches Repaired Here” was above the proprietor’s name of Ludwig Lieberman. Karl’s wife broke the crystal on her Cartier and had it repaired there. She also told Ludwig about the recent loss of their seven-year-old son, Klaus, struck by an automobile riding his bicycle. The watchmaker handed her his business card and said he may be able to help them with their grief.


He opened the door to scores of timepieces ticking, cuckoo clocks chirping, and alarm clocks ringing. The air was thick with the pungent odor of cigar smoke and the entire shop was small, no bigger than the two-car garage at his villa in nearby Stuttgart. The shop housed over 100 watches and clocks all crowding the shelves that covered the four walls. No one else was in the shop except for an aged Doberman Pinscher lying on a brown carpet that looked as old as the dog itself. A workbench was to the left with many trade - related tools and timepieces requiring repair. The gray bearded watchmaker was hunched over his chair working on an item with a magnifying monocle in his right eye and an unlit cigar stub dangling from the side of his mouth.


When a chime rang as Karl shut the door, the old man did not get up from his armchair. “Sit please,” the watchmaker said with his back still facing his new arrival.


Karl took a seat on a stool behind the counter. After a few moments, something prominent caught his eye. It was an antique hourglass, ten inches tall, composed of bronze with Gothic statuettes as the four posts. The glass was pristine with pale yellow sand granules inside the lower chamber


While being mesmerized by the timepiece and not wanting to disturb the elderly fellow with questions about the hourglass or the loss of his son, Karl instead asked, “May I pick up and look at this hourglass?”


Roused, the watchmaker finally stopped working and raised his head turning it just far enough to the side to establish eye contact over the top of his wire-rimmed glasses. “Why yes,” he responded. “We deal in nothing but time here. That hourglass is special. If you are the proper individual, it will reveal a tale about yourself.”


“Thanks.” Karl turned the hourglass over and gazed at the granules of sand funneling into the bottom chamber. “It flows swiftly,” he remarked.


The old man, still working on the timepiece, finally introduced himself: “GutenTag. My name is Ludwig. What’s yours?”


“Karl Johansson from Stuttgart.”


“Karl, there was a man here, a nice gentleman such as yourself who swung that hourglass over and was intrigued by the flow of sand. About halfway through he stopped speaking and his face turned pale. Then his jaw dropped, and his forehead broke out into a sweat. Without speaking another word, he looked up at me from his stare into that hourglass and shot out the door without uttering so much as an auf Wiedersehen. Make yourself at home. Look around the shop. I have unusual timepieces – many are antiques.”


When Karl turned the hourglass upside down, he left both hands on the antique timepiece, working his fingers over its miniature statuettes that formed the four posts. While tilting the angle of the hourglass to garner a better view, he detected a strange sensation, a surge of power - of sheer energy, flowing from the tips of his fingers, through his arms, then radiating throughout his entire frame. The sensation was gaining in strength but was not a disagreeable feeling. He experienced mild vertigo and sat once more on the stool. Then the watchmaker became hazy and the lights in the shop started to dim. Karl experienced tunnel vision as his mind drifted away.


While he continued his trance like stare into the hourglass, Karl began to envision and hear his mother singing to him as a ten-year-old. She was singing classic ballads and fashionable songs from the radio while hanging linen on a clothesline. He picked up the fragrance of freshly cleaned clothes and his mother’s perfume. Upon completing her chores, she pushed her blonde braided pigtails from either side of her face. Then she stooped over and gave her son a big kiss on the cheek that left behind a lipstick mark.


The flow of sand into the hourglass, at first silent, now became quite audible in Karl’s ears. The stream of particles brought back sounds of his youth. He perceived the clamor of his adolescent playmates on bicycles and of wooden airplanes with props driven by rubber bands. He saw his neighbor’s dog, Shadow, the adopted mixed breed of Fred and Gilda Schultz. While he peered into the hourglass Karl could also view images – figures similar to holographs of his father arriving home from the second shift at a nearby BMW factory.


Karl, his mind in disbelief, let the hourglass rock back in his palms in order to rest the piece on its base as the last grains of sand were funneled into the lower chamber. When the figures finally disappeared – so did the sensation running throughout his frame. Then the room brightened. When he started to speak his voice was trembling. Searching for words to express himself, he told Ludwig, “Those images in the hourglass, those illusions, they seemed to depict actual individuals from my past.”


“Yes, when it’s working the antique hourglass never lies. Did you see anything of importance from your memories? Perhaps a dream similar to Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis?”


“Tell me Ludwig, what will take place if I swing the hourglass upside down once more and reverse the flow of sand into the other chamber? Will it let me visualize my dead son? My wife, Hilda, said you may be able to help us with our grief.”


“Yes, I remember your spouse. She was here only last week. Turn the hourglass over.”


Karl’s hands shook ever so slightly turning the timepiece over. Then his eyes widened as his face melted into an expression of joy. Tears began trickling down his cheeks as he gazed once more into the chamber.


“Ludwig. Ludwig! That’s my boy in there. He’s walking down the same cobblestone street where he was struck by the car riding his bicycle. He’s waving at me as if he was trying to tell me something. ‘Come with me, Papa. Come here with me’.”


In a hushed voice Karl began talking to his deceased son. “Klaus. Oh, dear Klaus. I should have never let you ride to the park that day. I should have listened to your mother’s warning. I can’t wait to tell her about you. Maybe we will all be together again one day soon,” he said as his gaze shifted upward toward Ludwig with eyes that beckoned him to work his magic one more time.

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